1 Billion Bitcoin P2P Traders: NoOnes Sets Sights on Nigeria and Global South

1 Billion Bitcoin P2P Traders: NoOnes Sets Sights on Nigeria and Global South

I recently spoke with Ray Youssef, CEO of NoOnes, a peer-to-peer (P2P) bitcoin trading platform with numerous other functionalities, about how NoOnes is empowering its users, what it’s doing in response to the Nigerian government’s crackdown on Binance P2P and why P2P marketplaces play a crucial role in fulfilling the promise of bitcoin as a medium of exchange.

Youssef and the global team at NoOnes are on a mission to end financial apartheid and to unite the financially disenfranchised around the world. In the process, they’re taking on the old financial guard, driven by the belief that when people can trade freely with one another using bitcoin, the oppressive powers that be will lose their leverage over those living in developing economies.

A transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity, follows below.

Frank Corva: What is the primary mission of NoOnes?

Ray Youssef: It’s the world’s first peer-to-peer distributed nation. I see myself as a chief advocate, not just CEO — someone that is representing the people. We want to onboard a billion citizens in the next six years.

By citizens, I mean engaged customers. They’re not just using it once every two weeks. They have to be deeply engaged for this to be victorious. That means a billion daily engaged people. It’s an amazing number when you consider Binance has 120 million users and about 2-3% of them are probably monthly active. We’re trying to get a hundred times that.

Corva: How many people are currently using it?

Youssef: We have about 400,000 active users, which is pretty amazing. My old company had like a quarter million active [users]. The goal here is not just to get empty signups. The goal here is to make people active.

Corva: You’ve talked about how apps like NoOnes and Bitcoin can help end “financial apartheid.” Could you define this term?

Youssef: Financial apartheid is the most evil form of apartheid. It’s invisible chains that have basically kept the vast majority of the world poor for over a hundred years, and people aren’t even aware [of it]. It manifests in so many different ways.

Broken overregulation [is one form of it]. Africa is the most overregulated region of the world. M-Pesa is the top mobile wallet in Kenya. 98.8% of Kenyans have an M-Pesa wallet. M-Pesa is so big it’s expanded beyond Kenya to Ghana, South African and other African countries, but you still can’t send money from an M-Pesa wallet in Kenya to an M-Pesa wallet in Ghana or South Africa.

You are trapped in the economy where your passport was issued. You can’t access liquidity in other countries, and they can’t access liquidity in your country.

The problem gets even worse when you consider commerce between companies. Pan-European trade is at 69%. In Asia, I think it’s 59%. Latin America drops down to 30%. And Africa, officially it’s at 13%.

But guess what? The real number is less than 1%. Because in that 13%, they count all these American and Western corporations that just have local names. Intracontinental African trade is at less than 1%. If that doesn’t scream financial apartheid, what does?

Corva: Speaking of Africa, let’s discuss what’s happening in Nigeria. The government took two Binance executives hostage. In response, Binance has stopped supporting the Naira and has shut down its P2P trading platform in Nigeria. NoOnes is currently enabling Binance P2P traders to transfer their P2P trading profiles from Binance to NoOnes. How is this going?

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Youssef: Traders are very happy to have their feedback imported over. It’s very important. Reputation is huge in this business, especially if you’re an OTC trader. [So,] we made a special landing page for all the peer-to-peer refugees.

They’re very happy to come over and be able to talk to the CEO directly in a Telegram and WhatsApp channel. That goes a long way.

Binance is being torn apart by the US government right now. Why did they go for this guy (Changpeng Zhao (CZ), Binance’s former CEO) so hard? Were they angry he was front-running his own users? No. They didn’t care about that at all.

What they really cared about is that CZ and Binance allowed all of us plebs — all of us peasants out there — to have financial access through peer-to-peer trading. The fact that there’s 120 million people on the same internal money transmission network and that CZ has all these off ramps to local money all over the world set them off.

Remember the guy they came after before CZ? Ross.

Corva: Ross Ulbricht?

Youssef: Yes, sir. Peer-to-peer is the enemy, and it always has been. They’ve had Ross in jail for over 11 years. He just put up a website like Amazon or eBay where anyone could trade anyone with anything.

[Sure,] some people sold some weed on there. For that, they made up this story about [his involvement in a murder conspiracy]. This is all garbage. This is a sweet, innocent kid. And they put him in jail for two life sentences.

Corva: And Sam Bankman-Fried only got 25 years.

Youssef: The only reason Sam Bankman-Fried got any time at all was because some rich people lost some money. This is the only reason that Madoff got any time at all. too. If he was robbing poor people, no one would give a damn. But Ross Ulbricht, man, they hit him with everything because they could. They wanted to send a message: “Hey, if you try to make global free marketplaces — real commerce — happen, we’re going to destroy you. You don’t touch that.”

And guess what? They’ve done that to bitcoin, [too]. They said, “Hey, we’ll let bitcoin exist as a store of value. If you get in good with us, we’re going to give you an ETF ticker. We’re going to get our pension funds in there. We’re going to let the price go up high. You’ll be just a little bit better off than everyone else. But you gotta give up this whole medium of exchange [thing].”

We gave up literally the best thing in the world, a free system of real commerce for a store of value for just another get rich quick pump and dump. It’s actually beginning to dawn on all of us: Oh, my goodness. Roger Ver was right.

Corva: I was actually just watching an interview with him on The Bitcoin Takeover. He made some interesting points that are in line with what you’re saying.

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Youssef: I mean, yeah, I was pissing all over Roger with all the other clowns before, too, but the dude is right. We have lost the ethos. We have lost the foundational base for what we’re doing. And should they actually manage to keep bitcoin out of the picture as this medium of exchange and just keep it as a store of value, eventually we’ll lose everything.

If it wasn’t for what’s happening in the Global South, it’s empty. And quite frankly, the Global South has moved over mostly to USDT on Tron. The only nation still [using] bitcoin primarily for a medium exchange is Nigeria. But the truth is, USDT on Tron is way cheaper. It doesn’t have volatility. It makes a lot more sense. So, how are we going to compete with that?

Corva: That’s a good question. Going back to Nigeria for a moment. NoOnes has team members on the ground who are promoting the platform in the wake of Binance P2P shutting down. Do you ever worry about their safety? How do you deal with the fact that they could easily be targeted?

Youssef: Number one, I’d try to get them out of the country. And if we can’t do that, then I’d ask them to keep as low of a profile as possible. We also keep something in the bank to represent them legally. I don’t want anyone to go to jail for anything I do. I’m not going to play with other people’s freedom or safety.

But throughout this whole process, everyone’s been pooping all over the Nigerian government. They’re like, “These people are dumb,” and that’s not helpful. There are some very smart people in the Nigerian government that know exactly what’s going on, but they can’t tell their own people exactly what’s going on because their own people wouldn’t be able to handle it or help them.

Every time I talk about this on Bloomberg or CNN Africa, I say, “The governments are not the problem. There is external pressure being applied to them that we’re not aware of.” And this is always the case in every one of these situations, whether it’s Zimbabwe or Venezuela.

I invite the government to talk anytime. Peer-to-peer is not a problem but the solution to actually correcting Nigeria’s capital control imbalance. If you go to peer-to-peer traders and say, “We need you to help us get more American dollars into the government here to stabilize the price of the Naira, they’re like, ‘Okay, [let’s] do it for Nigeria.’”

[However,] they’re not going to lose money doing it. They want to make some money doing it. But if they have the choice between doing the right thing to help everyone across a long-term timeline and making a little bit less profit, they’ll take that. Believe me, these people are not stupid. They know what’s good for the country is good for them, and that should be leveraged.

Corva: Speaking of people not being stupid, the team at NoOnes focuses heavily on education. How challenging is educating people on the ground?

Youssef: I posted a video on my Twitter of one of our workshops. There were over a thousand people there. That’s how much hunger there is for this.

Everyone needs bullish education. What I mean by bullish education is not the one, two, threes, or even how the blockchain works. No one really cares. It’s how to make money. People want to change their lives.

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You can move money around the world to leverage arbitrage. You can start real simple and put up an offer to buy bitcoin cheap on NoOnes and then take it and sell it on another exchange, a local exchange, whether you’re in South Africa or Malawi or wherever at 10% plus. That’s what some people are doing.

One guy I just talked to last week was making $2,000 a month — just buying bitcoin cheaply and selling it for 9-10% of what he bought it for. He [told me], “This is how I’m paying my way through college.” He spends just five hours a week doing these trades.

There’s another dude in South Africa, and he identified a problem. Nigerian workers want to send money back home to mama. They can’t do it because they don’t have a South African bank account. So he tells them, “Deposit your cash into my South African bank account.” He just takes that cash, buys bitcoin with it, sells that Bitcoin to someone in Nigeria on the NoOnes marketplace and says, “Send a bank transfer to this guy’s mother’s bank account.”

He did two peer-to-peer transactions and turned [South African] Rand into a Nigerian bank transfer, and the people on the ground are super happy they didn’t have to do it themselves. They just put money in the bank, gave him his mom’s bank account number. He did all the work. He’s banking and making profit. He started his own remittance corridor. He’s basically Western Union for the very specific corridor of South Africa to Nigeria.

Corva: These are incredible stories. When I think about NoOnes, I think about people around the world gaining access to bitcoin, not necessarily becoming entrepreneurs using the platform. It’s great to hear that P2P bitcoin trading enables this.

Youssef: Absolutely. We are in the middle right now of the peer-to-peer revolution. It started with the internet. We got all these mobile devices and all these startups that disrupted everything except finance. Then, we got peer-to-peer electronic cash. Now, we’re fighting for the soul of it as a [medium] of exchange.

Peer-to-peer marketplaces are the last step. That’s what they put Ross Ulbricht in jail for. That’s what they put CZ in cuffs for. They don’t want someone actually finishing it, completing the peer-to-peer revolution.

We’re going to the mom and pops, the farmers markets, but if the money isn’t peer-to-peer, none of it will stick. Once we’ve gone peer-to-peer, what power do they have?

Humanity is officially one once we tie that ribbon around the peer-to-peer revolution.

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